Managing Director, New York
Josie Cardoso-Rojo is an immigration attorney who has focused on all aspects of removal/deportation defense with an emphasis on asylum law. Prior to joining KIND, she was a staff attorney at Human Rights First, where she mentored over 200 cases involving asylum, adjustment of status, TPS, cancellation of removal, and SIJS. Before Human Rights First, she was a solo practicing attorney focusing on removal defense, as well as family-based and employment-based immigration. She graduated from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in 2014, and is licensed to practice in New York, New Jersey, and Florida. Josie currently resides in Brooklyn, NY with her four yorkies.
Managing Attorney, New York - Released
Ana Juneau is a Managing Attorney at KIND where she focuses on providing children with representation before family and immigration courts. Prior to joining KIND, she was employed at American Friends Service Committee where she practiced immigration law assisting migrants with their asylum, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, TPS, DACA, Cancellation of Removal , T and U visa cases. She was also a solo practitioner for over twenty years and is a graduate of Wesleyan University and Brooklyn Law School. Ana is admitted to practice law in New York and Connecticut.
Managing Attorney, New York - Detained
Bio coming soon!
Whitney Hood joined KIND in February 2022 as a Senior Attorney. Previously, she’s worked in anti-violence and immigrants’ rights spaces representing survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking, and gender-based violence in family law and immigration law, she’s lobbied for improved state and federal protections for survivors, and worked on human rights investigations of gender-based violence in Papua New Guinea. Whitney was an Equal Justice Works Fellow at Sanctuary for Families Anti-Trafficking Initiative in 2016. She graduated a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar from Columbia Law School.
Mikaela Harris is a Senior Attorney at KIND where she both advises pro bono attorneys seeking Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, asylum, and other forms of relief for their child clients and represents child clients directly. Formerly, Mikaela worked in the Immigration Intervention Project at Sanctuary for Families (SFF) where she screened victims of sexual and gender-based violence for immigration benefits. At SFF, Mikaela represented clients applying for affirmative immigration benefits such as U Visas, VAWA petitions, T Visas, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, and asylum as well as in removal proceedings before the Executive Office of Immigration Review. Mikaela speaks both French and Spanish, and is a graduate of Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po), Georgetown University Law Center, and the University of Florida, summa cum laude. She is admitted to practice in New York and the District of Columbia.
Marilia G. Richards is a Senior Attorney at KIND’s New York City office. Prior to joining KIND she was a Senior Immigration Litigation Associate where her practice focused on a wide array of complex immigration matters, including family-based immigration, naturalization, asylum, removal defense, and special immigrant juvenile status. As an immigrant herself, she deeply believes in fighting for immigrants and their rights. Marilia has many years of experience in both Immigration and Housing Law. Previously, Marilia’s practice focused on housing law where she represented low income and undocumented tenants in Brooklyn, New York. Her anti-harassment litigation, coalition advocacy, and eviction defense helped longstanding residents remain in their homes. This work was extremely meaningful to her, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Marilia received her Juris Doctorate from New York Law School and her Bachelor’s of Arts in Political Science from Florida International University. Marilia is admitted to practice law in New York and in the District of Columbia.
Interim Senior Attorney
Bio coming soon!
Halina Schiffman-Shilo is a Senior Attorney at KIND. Prior to joining KIND, Halina was a Senior Staff Attorney with the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG), where she focused on removal defense and humanitarian relief, including asylum, SIJS, U/T-visas, and VAWAs, among other applications for relief. Halina received her JD from New York Law School and her BA from McGill University. She is admitted to practice law in New York State and lives in Queens with a very energetic pitbull mix.
Diana Ricaurte is a Staff Attorney at KIND’s New York Office. Before joining KIND, Diana was an Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow (IJC) placed in CARECEN. As an IJC fellow, Diana represented families and UC’s in removal proceedings living on Long Island. Diana predominantly worked with single mothers and their children seeking asylum in the United States along with UC’s eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). Diana also served as a Staff Attorney at The Door working with Detained Youth in ORR custody. Diana received her JD from St. John’s University School of Law and her BA from SUNY Binghamton. Diana is admitted to practice law in New York.
Maria Ortega-Dilone is a Staff Attorney at KIND's New York City Office. Maria was first exposed to Immigration Law when she interned at the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs in 2014. During her time in law school, she had an array of exposure to immigration law. During her first year of law school, she traveled to Texas and volunteered with RAICES, where she assisted women and children in detention centers with their Credible Fear Interviews. She later interned with Catholic Charities of NY. There she assisted Unaccompanied Minors with their Asylum and Special Immigrant Juvenile applications. Maria was part of the St. John’s Refugee and Immigration Litigation Clinic, where she continued her work assisting families obtain immigration relief. After law school, Maria was a Staff Attorney for the New York City Housing Authority Department of Equal Opportunity. She conducted investigations regarding discrimination and harassment. Maria received her Juris Doctorate from St. John’s University School of Law and her Bachelor of Arts from the City College of New York. Maria is admitted to practice law in New York and is fluent in Spanish.
Gabriela Mendez received her Juris Doctorate from the University of San Francisco School of Law. Passionate about the rights of refugees and immigrants all over the world, she has traveled to Lesotho and Mexico City in pursuit of holding governments accountable to violations of human rights including immigrant rights. Immediately after law school she held various fellowships including at Asylum Access where she worked on researching the treatment of refugees in countries of first asylum such as Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. And also had a fellowship with Human Rights Advocates working on finding avenues for Native American communities to reacquire their sacred cultural patrimony from auctions houses. As an immigration attorney at Centro Legal de la Raza in Oakland, California, she worked on the immigration detention team helping individuals get out of immigration custody and defending them against deportation. Most recently, Gabriela has provided direct representation to children and families as a staff attorney at the University of San Francisco School of Law's Immigration and Deportation Defense Clinic before asylum officers and immigration judges. This clinic, which she first participated in during law school, gave her the opportunity to spend a week in Dilley, Texas at a detention center where recently arrived mothers and their children are sadly detained. It opened her eyes to the extreme injustice in our U.S. immigration system. She is a recent transplant to New York City from the Bay Area.
Interim Staff Attorney
Molly Kammien is a Interim Staff Attorney at KIND’s New York office. Prior to joining KIND, Ms. Kammien worked as a litigation associate at Seward & Kissel LLP and provided pro bono representation to clients seeking asylum, U Visas, VAWA petitions, and Battered Spouse Waivers. Ms. Kammien also interned as a Legal Fellow at Refugee Rights Turkey in Istanbul and with the Bronx Defenders’ Immigration Defense team. She received her JD from Brooklyn Law School and her BA from Boston College. Ms. Kammien is admitted to practice law in New York and New Jersey.
Veronica Montalvo is a Staff Attorney in KIND’s New York Office. Prior to joining KIND, Veronica was an associate at Kelley Drye & Warren, where her practice focused on commercial and complex civil litigation. As an associate, Veronica provided pro bono representation to clients in a variety of immigration matters, including asylum cases, VAWA and SIJS petitions, and U-visas. Veronica completed her undergraduate studies at Columbia University in 2009 and graduated from Columbia Law School in 2016. During law school, she represented unaccompanied minors in their asylum and SIJS claims as a member of the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic. She is admitted to practice in New York.
Hugo Gonzalez Venegas
Hugo is an immigrant from Mexico and grew up in Portland, Oregon. He went to Portland Community College earning an Associate’s of Paralegal Studies and found a passion for immigration work after becoming a US Citizen. He went on to Portland State University graduating cum laude with a Bachelors in Political Science. He earned a Juris Doctor from Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland. During law school he had the privilege of going to Dilley, TX to work at the South Texas Family Residential Center assisting mothers and children arriving at the border. He also clerked for Hon. Marco Hernandez of the U.S. District Court of Oregon. After graduating he clerked for Hon. David Rees of the Multnomah County Circuit Court. He recently moved to NYC and is excited to get to know the neighborhoods and take his Cairn Terrier (Maya) for walks and find great food.
Martin was first exposed to immigration law during law school as part of his 2L summer internship for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Office of the Chief Counsel, in San Diego, California. After passing the bar, he pursued a fellowship for a non-profit legal service in New York City that provides representation for low-income immigrant children as well as training and seminars for attorneys fulfilling their pro bono and CLE requirements. Among many forms of relief, Martin is proficient in asylum, VAWA and SIJS self-petitions, employment-based petitions (Hs, Ls, Os, and TN), cancellation of removal, stay of removal, requests for prosecutorial discretion and parole, as well as adjustment of status (green card) applications. He completed his undergraduate studies at Columbia University in 2009 and graduated from Fordham University School of Law in 2013. Martin is originally from Los Angeles and currently resides in Brooklyn.
Melida Ceballos is a Staff Attorney at KIND's New York office. Prior to joining KIND in November 2021, Melida represented clients seeking immigration relief at Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services in Washington, DC. Previously, she worked in the Immigration Group at Duane Morris LLP, the United Nations and the Inter-American Development Bank, and interned at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and Human Rights First. Melida is fluent in Spanish and is a member of the New York Bar
Bio coming soon!
Gregory Smith is an experienced civil litigation attorney who has provided pro bono representation throughout his career to asylum clients from the Middle East, Central America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia. He recently served as visiting clinical professor at Cardozo Law School's human rights clinic, where he co-taught a seminar on human rights and refugee law and practice and supervised student teams in their representation of the clinic's asylum clients.
Bio coming soon!
Natasha Matias is a Staff Attorney at KIND’s New York Office, joining the team in May 2023, after spending five years at Blake & Associates, P.C. There she worked as a paralegal and later promoted to staff attorney after being admitted to practice in New York. While at Blake & Associates, P.C., her practice focused on family-based petitions, adjustment of status, and VAWA petitions. Natasha received her Bachelor of Arts in political science from St. John’s University and her Juris Doctorate from Brooklyn Law School, where she took part in the Safe Harbor Clinic assisting clients with their asylum cases. Natasha is fluent in Spanish and was a member of Latin American Law Student’s Association while at BLS.
Jessica Cornejo-Mercado is a Staff Attorney at KIND’s New York City Office. She is a bilingual (English/Spanish) public interest attorney dedicated to increasing immigrant access to humanitarian relief and justice. She is experienced in litigating defensive asylum applications before the New York Executive Office of Immigration Review as well as state court proceedings for children who are eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Jessica is passionate about working with immigrant youth, specifically, since she was once an undocumented child herself. She hopes to help her young clients achieve stability and sanctuary in the United States through her work. Before joining KIND, Jessica was an IJC Fellow with Catholic Charities Community Services. She earned her Juris Doctorate at New York Law School and is admitted to practice law in New York.
Bio coming soon.
Bio coming soon!
Ricardo Medina is a Senior Paralegal at Kids in Need of Defense (KIND). He provides legal support for minors in the detained unit who are facing removal proceedings. He began working at KIND in October 2022. Before joining KIND, he was a paralegal with Immigration Equality, where he provided support and services to the LGBTQ+ community and people living with HIV+ facing persecution and seeking asylum in the U.S. In the past, he has worked with Centro Legal de La Raza in Oakland, California as an intake specialist; there, he assisted the immigration, housing, and employment teams in providing services to marginalized and low-income residents. Ricardo holds a B. A. in Sociology from Lehman College, a CUNY school; he has his A. S in social and behavioral sciences from City College of San Francisco. He was born in Mexico and raised in California; having gone through the immigration system, he understands how crucial culturally competent and compassionate representation is in the immigration context. Ricardo is passionate about social justice and advocates for vulnerable communities.
Stephanie Ortega is a Senior Paralegal at KIND New York’s field office. She received a bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago in Criminology, Law and Justice with minors in Philosophy, Sociology, and Spanish. Before joining the KIND team, she gained experience in immigration law working on humanitarian visas with survivors of felonious crimes developing her interest in gender based violence work with nonprofits in Chicago. She has a special interest working with children and adolescents in a bilingual capacity as she was a Spanish teacher and a volunteer court advocate for neglected children in foster care. Most recently she worked at a rape crisis center providing free services and advocacy to survivors of sexual assault; she joined the KIND team in August 2021. In the future, she aspires to attend law school and continue her passion in social justice work.
Emi Cecilia Montenegro (she/her) joined KIND in June 2023 as a Senior Paralegal on the Detained Team. Her prior experience includes working with Unaccompanied Children at The Door, where she was a paralegal and Department of Justice Accredited Representative, and assisting permanent residents apply for naturalization at Catholic Migration Services. While obtaining her BA in International Studies with Departmental Honors at Seattle University, Emi studied abroad in Managua, Nicaragua and Rennes, France, interned at the International Rescue Committee, and tutored students in French and Spanish. She is passionate about international human rights, child protection, and transitional justice. Emi is fluent in French and Spanish.
Matthew Brill-Carlat joined KIND in December 2021 and supports the Legal Programs team as Paralegal. He graduated with honors from Vassar College, with a degree in History and a minor in Hispanic Studies. He also studied and conducted research in Cuba and Jordan. After interning at KIND’s Baltimore office in 2017, he was the Coordinator of Research and Pedagogy at the Consortium on Forced Migration, Displacement, and Education (based at Vassar College). There, he helped develop a minor in Migration and Displacement Studies, supported higher-education opportunities for displaced students, and developed research projects on forced migration. He is also a collaborating editor for a forthcoming collection of essays on forced migration pedagogy at the university level.
Rosalyn Valdez recently joined the KIND team in May 2021, supporting the Legal Services Department at their New York City office. She graduated cum laude from Quinnipiac University with a Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies and a minor in psychology. She has dedicated her career to serving vulnerable populations in New York City. In her most recent position, she served as a Housing Service Coordinator for individuals with a wide range of mental health concerns. She provided trauma-informed, recovery-oriented support for a caseload of 28 - 50 individuals, which included the coordination of health and community services, facilitating fitness and social groups, and providing resources that allowed them to accomplish their individual goals. Throughout the pandemic she also ensured everyone she supported remained healthy physically and mentally. During her spare time, she volunteers as a College-Prep Mentor and tutor at South Bronx United and as a Dance Fitness Instructor with Shape Up NYC. Her life mission is to build a more equitable society through person centered services that focus on the individual’s needs, instead of what we assume they need.
My name is Cesar Joel Calixto. I graduated from John Jay College of Criminal Justice where I majored in Political Science with a concentration in International Politics and Human Rights and minored in Latin American and Latino/a studies. During my senior year, I interned with The Legal Aid Society in their Immigration Law unit. My passion to help the immigrant community led me to enroll in CUNY School of Professional Studies, where I received an Advanced Certificate in Immigration Law Studies as a part-time student while also working in an immigration law firm mainly with Asylum seekers including UAC applicants.
Valeria Gonzalez is a recent graduate from the University of Texas, where she majored in International Relations and minored in French. Originally from Mexico, Valeria also considers herself an almost Austin, Texas native, as she lived there for most of her life. Her passion for immigrant rights and justice began in 2020 when she first started interning at Raices, a non-profit that provides legal aid to immigrants and refugees in Central Texas. Since then, Valeria has worked at several other non-profits, including American Gateways in Austin, Texas and the Washington Office on Latin America in Washington, D.C. Valeria is truly passionate about immigrant rights and continues to advocate for the rights and protections of unaccompanied migrant children at KIND.
Bio coming soon!
Jessica Alicea joined KIND in April 2023 and supports the Legal Programs team as a Paralegal. She graduated from Gettysburg College, with an individualized major which she named Human Rights and Social Justice. Alongside she also minored in Peace and Justice studies. Throughout her undergrad she participated in various clubs on campus such as The Butterfly Coalition. The goal for this club was to give undocumented students and alias a space to express their concerns and have a sense of community. During her senior year she became a Fielding Fellow at The Eisenhower Institute where collectively all fellows received a Diplomacy Lab Project from the U.S. State Department. After graduation she worked as a legal assistant at a non-profit called Orlando Center for Justice. She worked to provide legal relief to vulnerable and underrepresented populations in Florida with various staff attorneys. In September of 2022, she interned for The Bail Project combating mass incarceration by disrupting the money bail system. There she had the opportunity to work with bail disruptors to help restore the presumption of innocence, reunite families, and challenge a system that criminalizes race and poverty through different methods.
Isaac Bustos supports the Legal Programs department at KIND as of May 2023. Isaac was born in Cuenca, Ecuador but currently resides in Queens, New York. He received his Bachelor in International Relations with a Minor in Foreign Trade from the University of Azuay in Cuenca, Ecuador. His background includes working as an immigration paralegal. Isaac has worked on a variety of cases ranging from family and employment-based petitions, adjustments of status, immigrant and non-immigrant visas, asylum applications, and filings with the Immigration Court. Isaac’s passion and commitment to helping others truly reflect on his work. He loves to work with people from all over the world and be able to make a difference in their lives.
Guadalupe Cruz joined KIND in June 2023 and supports the Legal Programs team as a Paralegal. She graduated from CUNY John Jay of Criminal Justice College, with a Bachelor of Arts major in Psychology. Alongside that she also minored in Anthropology. After graduation she started her passion to help immigrants right began in 2015 when she first started working with a private firm in Queens. She gained a exquisite amount of immigration comprehension towards immigrants’ rights throughout the span of five years. She then went onto work with a non-profit organization Catholic Charities Community Services in the Bronx which completely changed her life. She was a Legal Program Coordinator for the LOPC (Legal Orientation Program Coordinator) for minors and guardians’ reunification. Guadalupe was in charge of helping minors, children and teenagers understand their immigration rights in this country. She helped make referrals to the minors and guardians for school enrollment, medical insurance, pro bono legal services, and therapy referrals. Now she will help advocate the rights and protection of unaccompanied migrant children at KIND.
Bio coming soon!
Laura Zhang joined KIND in August 2023 and supports the Legal Programs team as a Paralegal on the Detained team. Laura recently graduated from New York University, where she studied Human Rights with a minor in Creative Writing. As an undergrad, she had the opportunity to collaborate with many immigrant rights projects in New York City and across the country, such as New Sanctuary Coalition and the Queer Detainee Empowerment Project. In 2021, she was awarded a human rights fellowship by the NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study, through which she worked for the Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project, supporting accompanied minors through social and legal services. Most recently, she spent her last year of college studying and interning in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and is excited to be back in New York City working with the immigrant rights community.
Social Services Supervisor
Monica is a Social Services Supervisor with KIND. She graduated with a Masters of Social Work from Rutgers University in 2016 and previously graduated with a Bachelors of Psychology from Montclair State University. Prior to joining KIND, she dedicated four years of work with BCFS Health & Human Services, where she provided emotional support, advocacy, and resettlement placement assessments for unaccompanied minors, in accordance with the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Monica also interned with the International Rescue Committee located in Elizabeth, NJ, where she provided refugee families and their children, assistance with integration into U.S. educational system, orientation, school enrollment, ESL curriculum enrollment, and access to community resources. As a first generation child of Latino immigrant parents, Monica understands there are many challenges migrant families face upon entering the United States, including lack of knowledge or awareness regarding their legal rights, communication and difficulties in adaptation to a new environment, culture and community. Monica is eager and passionate to be able to provide assistance to families in need and be a part of the KIND team.
Social Services Program Manager, National
At the age of 9 years old, Melissa, along with her mother and younger brother, relocated to the United States from their native country, Colombia. Although young, Melissa recognized how much easier and useful it would have been for her, and her family, to transition into the US if the appropriate resources and services had been available. Fueled by this experience, Melissa has been actively involved in numerous projects serving vulnerable populations. At The College of New Jersey, she taught English to undocumented immigrants and provided them with tools and resources on how to improve their life style, and volunteered with a group of autistic adults and at a state prison. Immediately after graduation, Melissa became a corps member for Teach for America and taught Spanish for 2 years in Detroit, Michigan. This impactful experience, undoubtedly, confirmed her passion and commitment towards empowering marginalized populations. After Teach for America, Melissa received her master’s degree in social work from Washington University in St. Louis. Melissa could not be more thrilled to be working with KIND as a social service coordinator, and is looking forward to helping her team grow in order to provide clients with opportunities, and long-lasting positive changes.
Argelia Tlatelpa Perez
Senior Social Services Coordinator
Argelia Tlatelpa Perez recently completed her MSW from Fordham University in October 2019. She received her Bachelor's degree majoring in Psychology from City College of New York City in May 2009. Her working experience at Little Sisters of Assumption has been empowering immigrant families and educating them that they have rights and a voice in NY disregarding their legal status. While working with families she has been able to provide support to parents when a crisis arose. She has also provided play therapy when working with children who experience traumatic experiences at the Child Center of NY. Her dedication and contribution when working with immigrant families and young children who immigrate seeking a better future is rewarding to her because she knows that when working with children she is contributing to have a better society, human beings and gives hope to those in need.
Social Services Coordinator
Hannah Read joined the KIND team as a Social Services Coordinator in New York in October 2022. Before joining KIND, she worked as an Immigration and Family Law Paralegal at the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, where she supported survivors of domestic violence. A Texas native, Hannah also worked as an Intake Specialist with Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid. She graduated from Tufts University with a double major in Community Health and International Relations with a concentration in Latin America. Her passion for travel took her to Costa Rica, where she worked as a Project Supervisor with Amigos de las Americas, and to Cuba, where she studied immigration and public health.
Social Services Coordinator
Andrea Camacho supports the Social Services Department at KIND. Before her role as a Social Services Coordinator, in 2017 she was brought on to the KIND NY Legal Services Department as a paralegal. She graduated with her Master’s of Social Work from the City University of New York at Hunter College. Throughout the course of her degree, she interned at the New York City Administration for Children’s Services, where she spearheaded a resource guide project for older youth in foster care. She also interned with an international agency focused on minimum standards for child protection in humanitarian settings. Before KIND, Andrea worked with recently arrived unaccompanied minors in New York based detention centers, providing legal screenings and Know Your Rights Presentations. Andrea hopes to use her previous work experience and Social Work education to continue her work with immigrant youths.
Luis Enrique Jacquez
Social Service Coordinator
Bio coming soon!
Interim Program Coordinator
Lizbeth Cabrera is an Interim Program Coordinator, for Legal Programs at Kids in Need of Defense (KIND). She joined KIND in October 2022 and holds a real estate license and an associate degree in Applied Science in Paralegal Studies. Lizbeth first joined the legal field in 2018 shortly after graduating, entering a criminal defense firm where she started as a receptionist and was soon promoted to a paralegal position where her duties included preparing files for court, reviewing evidence, drafting motions, meeting with clients, and accompany the attorney to court hearings. Lizbeth then transitioned to another law office working for a criminal/civil defense attorney and municipal presiding judge where she held various similar duties as in the prior office. After working as a paralegal for about two years Lizbeth transitioned to an engineering firm where she was an administrative assistant then executive assistant. In these roles she carried a variety of responsibilities from coordinating meetings and managing the company principles calendar, recordation of documents, meeting with clients, notarizing documents, answering various phone lines, and project coordination with ESD#1, HRMUD, PDEMUD, City and County of El Paso.
Bio coming soon!
Bio coming soon!